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787 woes have cost largest operator $15.4 million

All Nippon Airways, with a fleet of 17 Dreamliners, is the world’s largest operator of Boeing’s troubled 787.

Shizuo Kambayashi /Associated Press

All Nippon Airways, with a fleet of 17 Dreamliners, is the world’s largest operator of Boeing’s troubled 787.

TOKYO — All Nippon Airways, an enthusiastic Boeing customer now reeling from battery problems on its Dreamliner jets, said Thursday that the grounding of its 787 fleet hurt sales by about $15.4 million in January, casting a shadow on the airline’s future earnings.

With a fleet of 17 Dreamliners, delivered in late 2011 before any other airline, All Nippon is the world’s largest operator of Boeing’s new jet. But that fleet remains grounded as US and Japanese investigators try to determine why a battery burst into flames and another spewed smoke in early January on 787s operated by All Nippon and Japan Airlines.

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All Nippon has scrambled to use replacement aircraft to operate its routes. But the airline has been forced to cancel about 450 domestic and international flights, affecting almost 60,000 customers. The airline has said it expects disruptions to continue and is unsure when they will end.

The airline said Thursday that the 787 grounding had caused an estimated $15.4 million in lost revenue so far, a disappointing reversal after the airline trumpeted the big savings brought about by the fuel-efficient jets. For now, All Nippon kept its profit forecast for the year through March unchanged at about $44 million, although it remains unclear how big an effect the Dreamliner woes will have on the airline’s future earnings and strategy.

Seven operators grounded their 787 fleets on Jan. 16 after regulators around the world followed those in the United States and Japan in ordering the suspension of all flights until the battery problems could be resolved. Earlier that day, a 787 operated by All Nippon made an emergency landing in western Japan after pilots noticed a battery error signal and a strange smell in the cabin.

Ten days earlier, a similar battery burst into flames aboard a parked 787 operated by Japan Airlines at Boston’s Logan International Airport. The lithium-ion batteries have been recovered from both planes and are now being scrutinized byinvestigators.

All Nippon has since said that it replaced batteries and chargers in its Dreamliners 10 times before the emergency landing, and Japan Airlines said it had done so several times. US investigators are now asking for more data on the devices’ performance.

All Nippon has not asked Boeing for compensation linked to the grounded 787s but will discuss the issue once the total financial effect is more clear, said the executive vice president, Kiyoshi Tonomoto, according to Reuters.

Japan Airlines, which owns seven of the Dreamliners, is scheduled to report its earnings next week.

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